L.A. Artists on Death, JFK … and Marilyn


In Los Angeles, artists are exploring the death of John F. Kennedy and the women in his life, reports VICE. Perhaps inevitably, Marilyn is a featured subject, although in truth her connection to JFK may be more mythical than real – and after all, she died more than a year before him.

“Painter Rosson Crow’s first foray into filmmaking, for example, is Madame Psychosis Holds a Séance, now on view at LA’s Honor Fraser Gallery through December 19 … Starring Kelly Lynch as a slightly worse-for-the-wear 60s-era singer whose fragile, careworn platinum blonde, red-lipsticked beauty deliberately evokes latter-day Marilyn Monroe, the film shows the existential meltdown of Madame Psychosis upon hearing the news of the death through TV and newspaper. She moves with an awkward, dream-logic elegance through the stages of grief, chain-smoking at Ouija boards, the phonecalls to prove he loved her in real life not only her imagination, the gorgeous, taunting mountain of roses delivered to his widow rather than her own lonely bungalow, that bury her in a nightmare, the creeping in of self-doubt, the descent into madness.”

Meanwhile, cult performance artist Karen Finley has referenced Marilyn in her new show, Love Field (named after the Dallas airport where Kennedy touched down on the day of his murder.) Finley was inspired by Bert Stern’s 1962 photos of Marilyn in a black wig. The images have since been interpreted as a cheeky impersonation of the first lady, Jackie Kennedy – however, there is no evidence that Marilyn intended it as such.


“Visual, performance, and literary icon of punk-wave feminism Karen Finley was also in LA around the anniversary of the assassination, for both the opening of her painting and drawing show Love Field at Coagula Curatorial, as well as the coinciding inauguration of the Broad Museum’s performance art programs with her seminal work, The Jackie Look … In the Love Field show, Finley brings together paintings and drawings from diverse but interrelated series examining the public rituals Jackie was forced to endure during what ought to have been a time of private grieving … and always, somewhere, the equally haunting phantom of Marilyn Monroe.”

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962
Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

Stern’s Marilyn ‘Valentine’ Sparks Lawsuit


Interior designer Harry Heissmann is suing his neighbour at Brooklyn Supreme Court, after her bathroom flooded during renovations – destroying limited edition artworks of Marilyn by photographer Bert Stern in his downstairs apartment, according to the New York Post.

“The ‘priceless’ Valentines and other art were wrecked when water poured down Heissmann’s walls, court papers say.

The suit doesn’t put a price on the ruined works by Stern, famous for his photographs of the sex symbol, ‘for the simple reason that there have been no subsequent sales since these first and only editions were purchased by collectors around the world,’ it says.”

Marilyn’s Vanity Fair: A Tale of Many Covers

vanity fair italy aug 15

Marilyn makes the cover of Vanity Fair‘s August issue (French edition only.) If the photo looks familiar, that’s because it was previously used on Vanity Fair‘s US edition, back in October 2008.

vanity fair oct 08

And by comparison with Bert Stern’s original photo, you can tell that poor Marilyn has fallen victim to the digital airbrush!

vanity fair italy aug 15 alt

Some fans have suggested that another, more flattering Stern photo could have been used…

vanity fair italy aug 15 alt2

The magazine includes an article about Lawrence Schiller’s photos of Marilyn, filming the poolside scene in Something’s Got to Give. As some readers may recall, an extract from Schiller’s book, Marilyn & Me, was published in the US edition of Vanity Fair in June 2012. The French article, however, is written by MM superfan Sebastien Cauchon.

Which begs the question – why wasn’t a Schiller photo used on the cover? Many fans were asking the same question in 2012, when an Andre de Dienes photo was used on the US cover of Vanity Fair, and not Schiller.

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The answer, according to Sebastien Cauchon, is that Schiller’s poolside nudes don’t include a full-face, colour shot of Marilyn making eye contact with the camera. Marilyn & Me‘s original cover (later rejected) showed a pensive, full-face shot of MM in a fur hat, on the set of Something’s Got to Give – but not a nude. Presumably Vanity Fair‘s editors felt that a cheerful beach shot from De Dienes – though taken 13 years previously – was more in keeping with the summery, au naturel theme.

SchillerAnd as Sebastien Cauchon explained to members of Immortal Marilyn’s Facebook group this weekend, his article differs from the 2012 extract because its main subject is the proposed Playboy cover shoot Marilyn was considering at the time of her death (though according to Schiller, she was having second thoughts about the project.)

The article includes Hugh Hefner’s letter to Schiller and fellow photographer Bill Woodfield, explaining the concept of the mooted cover – click on the photo below to read in full.

vanity fair italy aug 15 hefner

The photo shoot went ahead with model Sheralee Connors taking Marilyn’s place, and was featured in Playboy‘s 1962 Christmas issue.

playboy xmas 62

Photo by Fraser Penney
Photo by Fraser Penney

Marilyn in Cologne

This 1953 pin-up shot by Bert Reisfield features in a new exhibition at In Focus Gallery in Cologne, Germany, until November 4th. This Marilyn retrospective also includes photographs by Eve Arnold, Andre de Dienes, Elliott Erwitt, Sam Shaw, George Barris, Edward Clark, Bruno Bernard, and Bert Stern.

John Malkovich: Being Marilyn


Actor John Malkovich has recreated a classic Marilyn pose for an art project with photographer Sandro Miller, now on display at Chicago’s Catherine Edelman Gallery, reports the Huffington Post. In the original photo session, with Bert Stern in 1962, Marilyn’s gallbladder surgery scar is also visible. Although Marilyn rejected a large number of his photos, Stern published them all after her death.


It’s a problematic subject to begin with, given Stern’s attitude towards Marilyn. Some fans may consider it a mockery of her sex appeal. But at least there is a certain bravery and good humour in the reproduction.

Here is an example of a picture Marilyn rejected – the orange cross is from her own pen.


And here it is re-enacted by Malkovich. I think this image is more powerful, because it reflects the ambivalence with which we now view Stern’s work – especially because it was one of Marilyn’s last photo shoots.


Obviously, Malkovich can’t match Marilyn’s beauty. It might have been interesting to see Malkovich recreate one of George Barris’s gentler images of Marilyn, taken shortly before she died.

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962
Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

Marilyn is one of several women Malkovich impersonates: the others include Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Gordon Parks’ American Gothic, and Diane Arbus’s twins. Also featured is a parody of Warhol’s Marilyn, but that looks a lot like ‘Life is Wonderful’, Mr Brainwash’s MM/Michael Jackson portrait from 2009.

John Malkovich as Warhol’s Marilyn
‘Life is Beautiful’, Mr Brainwash, 2009


Beyonce Comes ‘Out’ For Marilyn


There isn’t a bigger star right now than Beyonce, who fronts this month’s Out magazine in a blonde, Marilyn-style wig. Some of the photos (by Santiago & Mauricio) are quite reminiscent of Bert Stern’s iconic Vogue session with MM, without sacrificing Beyonce’s own persona or trying to supplant Monroe’s. Rather like ‘Queen B’ herself, the images attempt to cross cultural boundaries – and are quite tastefully done (for a change.)


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Galt Marilyn Raises Funds For Children

Artist Ed Chapman has created a 5ft square, Warholian image of Marilyn using Galt Toys products. Galt has paid £2,050 for the mosaic to the Toy Trust, and the money will help disadvantaged and disabled children in the UK and abroad.

Chapman previously created other ceramic mosaics of Marilyn, including one after Bert Stern’s famous 1962 photo sessions.



Rediscovering Eros


Eros, the avant-garde magazine which showcased Bert Stern’s semi-nude photos of Marilyn in its autumn 1962 edition (released in hardback just weeks after her death), lasted for only four issues before its publisher was jailed for obscenity. Over at Messy Nessy Chic today, a look back at the history of Eros and its MM issue (now a highly sought-after collectible.)